Greece: New general strike set for Wednesday 15 June

Militant mass action needed to stop next savage austerity package

The coming general strike in Greece, on Wednesday, 15 June, is seen as a weapon for the movement of the "enraged" – and workers are as enraged as the youth. Further strikes have been announced to follow to try to stop the EU-IMF-ECB ‘troika’ from implementing the ‘second memorandum’ i.e. a new wave of severe cutbacks that are accepted by the Greek government.

Greek society is at boiling point. One the one hand, with anger and on the other hand, searching for a way to put an end to the policies of the government of George Papandreou and the troika (EU, ECB, IMF) The general strike this Wednesday is the next point of reference for everything and everybody. However, this general strike is not expected to be of the same style as the previous nine held in the course of this economic and social crisis. It is linked now to the movement of the Enraged – the “real democracy now”. It is not just to protest and demonstrate. It has the clear objective of stopping the parliament from voting in favour of the second memorandum. The central slogan of the Enraged is: “Time to get rid of them!”

On top of that, the unions in the energy and electricity sector, which is threatened by further privatizations, called “repeated 48 hour strikes” starting on 20 June. What this means is that after every 48 hour strike, the Union of the Electricity workers will reconvene and decide if they should take another 48 hour strike action, until the government does not retreat on its plans.

The council workers’ union (POE/OTA), until a few months ago under Pasok leadership, is now nationally calling for a strike after the general strike. The leadership broke from Pasok. They call now for occupations of the municipal and government buildings, all over the country, and to organise assemblies emulating the assembly in Syntagma Square, which is directly in front of the national parliament in central Athens. In Syntagma Square, every evening, meetings are held. Last Sunday, the assembly saw around 5,000 people arguing, discussing and voting on all relevant issues of the movement (on weekdays, the numbers are usually smaller, around 1000 people.

On a typical day, the camp in Syntagma Square is not too impressive. A few hundred attend and try to deal with organizing everything. But in the evening, the whole square comes alive and people come together to discuss.

While the camp and the assembly in Athens (but not a similar protest in Thesaloniki) is dominated by the Left, a few meters away, directly in front of the parliament, there are many Greek flags and some active nationalist groups that try to set the tone, chanting, for example, “Hellas, Hellas!”

The question of the ‘quasi-colonialisation’ of Greece, the sell-out to the multi-nationals etc is decisive. The demand for democracy is important, but not the dominant issue. Democratic issues are directly linked to the role of the troika, turning the country into a kind of ‘protectorate’.

Electricity workers’ action

Last Sunday’s demonstration turnout was not as big the previous week’s, on 5 June, when half a million filled the square. However, this was before Monday’s Bank Holiday and more importantly in the run up to the general strike this coming Wednesday, to which everyone now looks. And the energy workers’ and the council workers’ unions’ call for action after the general strike has huge potential.

Smaller disputes are taking place in different workplaces already, where workers are encouraged by the movement.

If the electricity workers take action, it could open the floodgates to a much broader movement of strikes and occupations. This can further increase the tensions inside the camp of the Establishment and even bring down the government. This is demanded by the movement but unfortunately not by the unions calling for strikes, so far. Depictions of helicopters are on posters, banners and graffiti – an ‘offer’ to Giorgos Papandreou, the Greek Prime Minister, to leave, in the same way as the Argentinean president, De La Rua, fled his country’s parliament building in 2001. This is linked to the ‘OUST’ slogan, the Greek version of ‘degage’.

But such developments are not certain. It is not ruled out that if no point of reference is created after the general strike – a model of resistance – another chance to stop the government and the troika will be wasted. The current situation shows the potential for the masses and also underlines that the working class has to overcome the lack of leadership and organisation.

The general strike was called for 15 June, the day of the vote in parliament on the second memorandum. Now this vote is postponed. It seems as if the government is spreading rumours about possible days on which to hold the vote to try to find the best time from their point of view in which to do it. The 23 or 28 June are two dates discussed. The Pasok government might push back the vote date into the hottest part of the summer, with the aim of meeting less resistance.

Government manoeuvres

But the government shows its weakness with these maneuvers. As an activist from Xekinima (CWI in Greece), put it, the Pasok government is like a boxer, crouching in his corner of the fighting ring after receiving blows and trying to stay on his feet. This encourages the resistance. Xekinima is doing everything to further develop this resistance and to offer a way forward to bring down the government, to resist capitalism and to link this movement to the struggle for socialism.

Over 25,000 Xekinima leaflets were distributed during the last weeks of demonstrations. Xekinima skilfully puts forward how it thinks the mass movement can be developed: the PASOK government should not be replaced with the right wing New Democracy opposition or some other combination of pro-capitalist politicians etc, but with a government based on the interests of the mass movement of youth and workers. On the basis of this movement, with elected representatives at local, regional and national level, and Left activists, a new power that will represent the working masses to replace the ‘thieves’ in parliament can be created.

Xekinima calls for full mobilisation on 15 May, in workplaces, schools, colleges, in the Squares and in the communities. Along with the maintenance of the mass occupations, a programme of 48 hour general strikes, following the lead of the Electricity workers, and more, if necessary – well-prepared for and democratically run – can see the hasty end of PASOK government and the possibility of a new government representative of working people and youth coming to power. This would have an immediate and huge effect across Europe and internationally, marking the start of the international working class turning back the tide of cuts and for a new society based on people’s needs not profits for the bankers and rich.

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June 2011